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Cosmetic Surgeons


Contrary to popular belief, cosmetic surgery is not a recent development. Although the increase in the popularity of certain cosmetic procedures is a relatively new trend, surgeons have been correcting human disfigurement since 3400 B.C., when Egyptian healers performed cosmetic operations on the face, feet, and arms. Another ancient tie can be found in the profession's own name. The plastic in plastic surgery does not mean "artificial." Rather, plastic surgery derives its name from the ancient Greek word plastikos, which meant to mold or give form. In fact, the modern day "nose job," which Hollywood celebrities seem to favor, likely got its start in ancient India, although the procedures done at that time were for reconstructive rather than strictly cosmetic purposes. By 800 B.C., physicians in India were using skin grafts (a process that transfers healthy skin from one part of the body to another for the purpose of replacing damaged or lost skin) to perform reconstructive work for facial injuries.

Cosmetic surgery changed little during the Dark Ages but began to develop again in the 1700s, when British surgeons introduced to Europe techniques they had seen in India. Further improvement in skin grafting techniques continued, but progress was slow until the early 1900s.

Before World War I, the profession evolved slowly in North America as well. Virginian Dr. John Peter Mettauer performed the first cleft palate operation in the New World in 1827 with instruments he designed himself. With the advent of world war, physicians were challenged to find ways to treat extensive facial and head injuries never before seen, such as shattered jaws and gaping skull wounds.

It was not until the late 1930s that the American Board of Surgeons, the medical certifying organization of the time, established a specialty board to certify cosmetic surgeons—the American Board of Plastic Surgery—with its own standards and specialized training. Prior to the establishment of this board, many physicians who performed reconstructive surgeries were from other specialties related to cosmetic surgery.

New techniques developed in the 1950s included internal wiring for facial fractures and rotation flaps for skin deformities. In the 1960s, the scope of procedures performed by surgeons widened as the public became more informed. Cosmetic procedures became more popular. Silicone was initially used to treat skin imperfections and was first used as a breast implant device in 1962. The 1980s saw plastic surgeons expand their efforts to bring information to the public, and in the 1990s, the profession focused efforts on having reconstructive procedures covered under health plans.

Despite the many advances, the field is still evolving. Today, researchers are trying to unlock the secrets of the growth-factor environment of the womb, where scarless healing takes place, in order to apply the technique to wounds of children and adults.

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